By Aly Rumel
Artist Meghan Rumel reimagines the spent pieces of our daily life – old mail, magazines, clothes, books, and everything in between – into works of art, each piece seamlessly telling a new story that is far greater than the sum of its reused parts.
I got to (virtually) sit down with her – my creative, compassionate younger sister – to talk more about her art, her passion for reducing waste, and her sunny life in California.
Aly: What was your favorite part of childhood? Did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?
Meg: My favorite part was playing in elaborate imaginary worlds we created in our basement. It was never very obvious to me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I loved watching HGTV design shows, so I thought about being a home designer as a kid, but it was mostly short bursts of interest in various things. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!
Aly: (I guess that’s another thing we have in common.)
A: I know you’re a jack of all trades, but what’s your favorite type of art that you make? Are there any challenges with this style?
M: I most enjoy collaging. I started collaging because I wanted to make something made from other things. I’m very conscious of the insane amount of waste in the world, and that capitalism requires more and more things be made only to be wasted. I wanted to do my best to not contribute to the waste, and instead, help redirect the waste to having a longer life. Except for magazines I’ve been gifted with, markers, coloring pencils, and paint, everything that I use in my collages are things that have served their initial purpose and would have otherwise been thrown away. This can definitely be a challenge! Finding thick paper for stationery that’s blank on one side is no easy task! But it just requires me to get a bit more innovative, like I can paste on blank paper scraps to one side of the thick paper so that it’s now usable for a card. I also had a hard time finding a good way to preserve the collages without taking away the tactile experience they have. I’m still experimenting with that.
A: I’ve seen you when you’re in the zone. Tell us your secrets! What is your creative process?
M: I have a shoebox of scraps and cutouts from magazines, fabrics, advertisements, cards, and really anything that catches my eye. When I start something, I take out the shoebox and layout the scraps and pieces in there that I’m drawn to at the moment. Soon, a general feeling or theme starts to emerge. Then, I go through all of my magazines and start cutting out things that fit with the theme. As I start adding more and more things, pieces start to come together and I can see a framework for the finished picture. Then I go back and do the same thing, this time being more intentional with what I’m looking for in order to create the picture.
A: When you’re grooving in the zone like that, how do you know you’re in “flow”?
M: I’m not worried about any judgments from myself or anyone else and I’m just gravitating towards things in my shoebox and magazines naturally.
A: Where do you get inspiration?
M: I get inspiration from so many things! San Diego is such an amazing city that I’m continually amazed by, it’s easy to find inspiration here. I get a lot of my inspiration from the outdoors here– the water, the mountains, the PLANTS here are all truly amazing to me and so different from what I grew up within Chicago, it all feels a bit magical. Beyond that, there are so many amazing artists that also inspire me, especially Chloe x Halle and pretty much everyone on Rookie Mag haha!
A: Do you think studying Sociology at Iowa State impacted your art at all?
M: My favorite course was Environmental Sociology, it really shaped my relationship to the world. That class was actually the catalyst for starting a plant-based diet, for no longer buying fast fashion, for re-teaching myself to sew new things out of old clothes, and for experimenting with art made out of things I already had. The class showed me the direct negative impact capitalism has on people, specifically poor communities of color. I’ve never had a class that significantly impacted how I live my life in the way this course did– highly recommend taking a course on Environmental Sociology!
A: And then you taught me and shifted the way I live too! Do you think you will continue to pursue environmental sociology?
M: I hope to continue learning about environmental sociology! Lately, I’ve been very interested in textile production and the garment industry. I’m currently reading a book called “Fibershed” which is about the process and impact of creating garments from start to finish with materials and productions all within a 150-mile radius. I’m learning that one of the best things we can do is buy local– whether that’s fruit and veggies at the farmer’s market, a shirt dyed from plants native to your town, or a book from a local bookstore. At any level, buying locally made, locally produced, locally sourced, etc. is a great thing.
Sisters Pt. 1 (Mixed Media Collage)
Sisters Pt. 2 (Mixed Media Collage)
A: What else are you reading or listening to right now? What else are you doing out there in Cali? (Without me!!)
M: I like to go to coffee shops and drink fancy coffee, and I love to be outside reading or walking. Along with “Fibershed,” I’m also reading “The Lost Language of Plants” which is a super fascinating book about how plants communicate with one another and even to us! I’ve been listening to Kehlani’s new song “Altar” and I’m eagerly waiting for her new album to come out. I also just binged the new season of “Sex Education,” which never disappoints!
A: No spoilers! I haven’t finished Season 3 yet!!
M: Get on it!
A: I’ve always admired you as a creative. What does being ‘a creative’ mean to you?
M: I think everyone is creative– everyone has something to say whether through images, sounds, movements, words, etc. I think what makes someone “a creative” is believing that whatever it is you’re making is worth sharing. For me, that didn’t happen until Rookie Mag published a collage series I submitted, and then a couple years later a coworker who I respected as a creative called me an artist while we were talking one day. I’m excited about pursuing my creative passions because I’m at a place where I genuinely believe that my art is worth sharing, but at the same time I don’t feel like its reception determines its worth. It’s a very nice balance to be in.
A: What does your art mean to you?
M: My art is a way for me to communicate and to make sense of things.
A: What advice do you have for others who want to pursue or discover a creative passion?
M: Do your thing! As corny as it sounds, you have the whole world inside of you and you really can do anything. Do things for yourself, at your own pace in your own way. You’re a star!
…And on that beautiful note, we’ll leave you to ponder the whole world inside you and consider what you might be called to create today.
If you want to check out more of Meghan’s work, check out her portfolio or even leave a note to say hello at https://meghanrumel.com/.